Satureja montana (winter savory or mountain savory), is a perennial, semi-evergreen herb in the family Lamiaceae, native to warm temperate regions of southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa. It has dark green leaves and summer flowers ranging from pale lavender, or pink to white. The closely related plant, summer savory (Satureja hortensis L.) is an annual plant.
It grows to between 10 and 40 cm (4 and 16 in) tall. The leathery, dark green leaves are opposite, oval-lanceolate, (or needle-like,  1–2 cm long and 5 mm broad. The flowers appear in summer, between July and October, and range from pale lavender or pink to white. The flowers are smaller than summer savoury flowers. It contains carvacrol, a monoterpenoid phenol.
The herb was first published by Carl Linnaeus in his book Species Plantarum on page 568 in 1753. The Latin specific epithet montana refers to mountains or coming from mountains. Also commonly known as 'mountain savory'.
Distribution and habitat
Satureja montana is native to temperate areas between Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa. It has been naturalised in Great Britain. It can be found growing in old walls, on dry banks and rocks on hillsides, or rocky mountain slopes. Usually on calcareous, or alkaline soils.
Cultivation and uses
Easy to grow, it makes an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden. It requires six hours of sun a day in soil that drains well. In temperate climates it goes dormant in winter, putting out leaves on the bare stems again in the spring – do not cut the plant back, all those stems which appear dead will leaf out again. It is hardy and has a low bunching habit. It can be used within a herb garden as an edging plant.
In cooking, winter savory has a reputation for going very well with both beans and meats, very often lighter meats such as chicken or turkey, and can be used in stuffing. It can also be used in soups and sauces. It has a strong flavour (more than summer savory), while uncooked but loses much of its flavour under prolonged cooking. It can be added to breadcrumbs, as a coating to various meats including trout.
Winter savory has been purported to have antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, and digestive benefits. It has also been used as an expectorant and in the treatment of bee stings, or insect bites, by the use of a poultice of the leaves. The plant has a stronger action than the closely related summer savory.
Taken internally, it is said to be a remedy for colic and a cure for flatulence, whilst it is also used to treat gastro-enteritis, cystitis, nausea, diarrhoea, bronchial congestion, sore throat and menstrual disorders. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women.
The plant is harvested in the summer when in flower and can be used fresh or dried. The essential oil forms an ingredient in lotions for the scalp in cases of incipient baldness. An ointment made from the plant is used externally to relieve arthritic joints.
In traditional herbal medicine, summer savory was believed to be an aphrodisiac, while winter savory was believed to inhibit sexual desire (an anaphrodisiac). French herbalist Maurice Messegue claimed that savory was 'the herb of happiness'.
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